Forget the Buzz: Are Energy Drinks Really Healthy For You?

There were some interesting numbers thrown around today about the fastest growing segment of the beverage industry, and it isn't bottled water either. At prices comparable to a "designer" cup of coffee, energy drinks grossed more than $1 billion in sales last year. So it's not very surprising young people consider energy drinks "the coffee" of their generation, serving as a stay-awake stimulant for all-night studying or partying.

But are they really healthy for you?

Take Red Bull, probably the most popular brand of the bunch. The typical 8-ounce can contains 80 mg of caffeine, comparable to a cup of coffee, but more than twice as much as the typical 12-ounce can of soft drink. And when young people aren't drinking them at the office to stay awake, they're mixed with alcohol at the local bar to become "Vodka Bulls" or "Yager Bombs" to keep them going on the dance floor.

However, that caffeine/alcohol mix been deadly in some parts of the world. So much so, some European countries have banned sales of Red Bull, following several deaths of people who mixed the energy drink with alcohol. Nevertheless, Red Bull remains an "approved product," according to FDA guidelines anyway.

Even more disturbing: Anheuser-Busch, one of the nation's leading beer distributors, has been test-marketing B(E), a caffeinated beer with ginseng and guarana, in Boston and other cities for the past three months.

In reality, people really don't need that artificial rush of energy when, by nature, they aren't tired or sluggish in the first place. So let's put the blame for the popularity of these drinks where it belongs: Sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, negative emotions and no exercise regimen come immediately to mind.

Folks, there's no quick fix cure that will improve your energy levels, perhaps other than a lethal one. Here's some steps you can take to optimize your health right now:

WGAL-TV February 4, 2005

Boston Globe February 2, 2005

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